Presumptions of reader knowledge in Mark.

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Kunigunde Kreuzerin
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Re: Presumptions of reader knowledge in Mark.

Post by Kunigunde Kreuzerin » Fri Jan 19, 2018 1:26 pm

.
As many will know, against the common translations the Greek text of Mark 10:46 doesn't say

Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus

but
the son of Timaeus, Bartimaeus

This seems to require previous knowledge about the father Timaeus while the son Bartimaeus was seemingly unknown to the readers.

lsayre
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Re: Presumptions of reader knowledge in Mark.

Post by lsayre » Fri Jan 19, 2018 1:27 pm

Should all of this be taken as an indicator that the Gospel of Mark came along later than the other Gospels?

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Ben C. Smith
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Re: Presumptions of reader knowledge in Mark.

Post by Ben C. Smith » Fri Jan 19, 2018 1:44 pm

Kunigunde Kreuzerin wrote:
Fri Jan 19, 2018 1:26 pm
.
As many will know, against the common translations the Greek text of Mark 10:46 doesn't say

Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus

but
the son of Timaeus, Bartimaeus

This seems to require previous knowledge about the father Timaeus while the son Bartimaeus was seemingly unknown to the readers.
Excellent point.
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Re: Presumptions of reader knowledge in Mark.

Post by Stuart » Sat Jan 20, 2018 11:48 am

Peter Kirby wrote:
Wed Jan 17, 2018 10:16 pm
Nice OP.

Could debate individual points, but taken together it is a good set of reasons for thinking "a" story here existed already.
I completely concur. Best post ever by Ben.
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Re: Presumptions of reader knowledge in Mark.

Post by Ben C. Smith » Sat Jan 20, 2018 11:50 am

Stuart wrote:
Sat Jan 20, 2018 11:48 am
Peter Kirby wrote:
Wed Jan 17, 2018 10:16 pm
Nice OP.

Could debate individual points, but taken together it is a good set of reasons for thinking "a" story here existed already.
I completely concur. Best post ever by Ben.
Heh, thanks. :cheers:
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robert j
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Re: Presumptions of reader knowledge in Mark.

Post by robert j » Sat Feb 08, 2020 12:52 pm

In a somewhat recent post in another thread, you provided the statement directly below, and provided a link to your OP in this thread ---
Ben C. Smith wrote:
Tue Jan 28, 2020 7:21 pm

... I have argued on this forum that Mark is not telling a new story; he is telling one already known at least in part to his readers. Whether that story was oral or written (or both), and whether it was complete or partial, Mark is not freely composing his text from scratch (or freely composing from Paul + the scriptures + his own private inspirations).
I don’t share your opinion here. I have yet to see convincing evidence that otherwise unknown written material or oral traditions of a Christian nature are necessary to explain Mark’s story. I think what might have been gleaned from Paul, the Jewish scriptures, non-Christian ideas ‘in-the-air’, and Mark’s fertile imagination are entirely adequate

Of course, so much depends on one’s expectations, and how one perceives Mark’s style.

I think your arguments and evidence are reasonable, at least they sound reasonable. But I think it’s your expectations that are unreasonable. Your analysis strikes me as the way a college professor might approach the evaluation of a short story written for a college writing class, looking for narrative flaws and loose ends.

I think behind the purposely constructed colloquial style lies an exceedingly clever writer with a sharp, wry sense of humor. I think Mark incorporated loose-ends, teasers, inside-jokes, subtle allusions, riddles, conundrums, and mysteries.

Certainly Mark’s tale is not all fun-and-games, nor even mostly so, but rather it was a serious and purposeful theological teaching tool. But like Gandalf said in one of the Hobbit movies, “… all good stories deserve embellishment”.

I don't think casual readers and listeners would have been overly distracted by Marks clever elements. But on the contrary, I think they were likely to be motivated to read again and again.

I have provided here point-by-point responses to your OP in this thread ---
Ben C. Smith wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 12:09 pm

There are several junctures in the gospel of Mark at which the author/editor seems to presume previous knowledge, on the part of the reader, of significant parts of the overall storyline.
Ben C. Smith wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 12:09 pm

The imprisonment of John.

Mark 1.14-15: 14 Now after John had been delivered over ..."

While John himself has been introduced (in 1.2-6), nothing has been said which would imply that he was going to be imprisoned. Therefore, this notice seems to presume readers will already know about John's imprisonment ...

The disciples of John.

Mark gives the reader no early indication that John might have disciples ... that John has disciples comes a bit abruptly:

Mark 2.18: 18 John's disciples and the Pharisees were fasting; and they come and say to Him, "Why do John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast ...?"

To be fair, however, all groups in Mark seem to be introduced abruptly ...
Do these examples with John the Baptist provide significant evidence for lost texts or otherwise unknown early traditions about the Baptist? I think it’s just as likely, or perhaps more likely, that it was simply at these points in his narrative that Mark decided to reveal these story elements for his Greek audience.

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 12:09 pm

The son of man.

The gospel of Mark uses the title "son of man" in a way which seems to expect its readers already to know what it means. Mark 2.10 and 2.28 may be using the phrase "son of man" to mean "human," which is one of its main functions as a Semitic idiom. But in Mark 8.31 it means something more, and this "something more," as a title for Jesus, is never really explained, leaving modern scholars to write entire monographs on the topic.
By the time the reader gets to Mark 8:31, the author of GMark has already given some indication that the idiom might be applied to Jesus with some unique significance. Then in 8:31, that significance is more clearly revealed. I don’t see a problem with Mark leaving that significance, that “something more”, as something for the readers to ponder upon.

I think a creative interpretation of Daniel 7:13-14, especially through a Pauline lens, can provide an explanation for the association of the son-of-man with Jesus Christ by the author of GMark. And there's Hebrews 2:5-8. And perhaps in addition --- depending on how one comes down on the authorship, and the wide range of dates suggested for the Similitudes (Parables) of 1 Enoch --- the clearly messianic connotations associated with the idiom in that text might demonstrate a wider messianic association in a non-Christian, Jewish context when Mark wrote his story.

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 12:09 pm

Pilate.

Pilate, like Simon Peter, is one of the characters in Mark who needs no introduction ... He comes in unannounced:

Mark 15.1: 1 Early in the morning the chief priests with the elders and scribes and the whole Council, immediately held a consultation; and binding Jesus, they led Him away and delivered Him to Pilate.

Luke 3.1 and Matthew 27.2, on the contrary, give Pilate a proper introduction into the narrative. But Mark is hardly the only Christian who thinks he requires none. Many other Christian statements, especially some of a somewhat credal nature, also speak of Pilate as a known entity ...

Mark's first mention of Pilate is every bit as abrupt as the creeds' mentions of Pilate are, suggesting that his readers already knew under whose authority Jesus was crucified.
Certainly Pilate was an historical figure, but probably not well-known among most outside of the Jewish homelands some 40 years or more after his Judean governorship. But in his tale, Mark goes on to reveal Pilate’s authority shortly. And I expect interested Greek readers could ask-around, with some gray-beard Jewish friends or neighbors likely having some knowledge of Pilate’s brutal reputation.

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 12:09 pm

Alexander and Rufus.

Mark 15.21: 21 They press into service a passer-by coming from the country, Simon of Cyrene (the father of Alexander and Rufus), to bear His cross.

This kind of jumping out of the narrative to mention later people or events which depend in some way upon what is happening in the narrative is a fairly common storytelling device ... In this case, Alexander and Rufus, while unknown to us, must have been known in some way to the first readers of this text.
The Simon, pressed into service to carry the cross, is perhaps modified with both his place of origin and the names of his sons to give more distance from the other Simons in the story. But who knows about Alexander and Rufus --- names of Greek and Latin origin, respectively. A number of opinions have been offered over time. Perhaps Mark was just poking some fun at a couple of guys with those names within his own circle of acquaintances, or known by his acquaintances. A bit of mystery around a couple of guys with no real role in the story doesn't lead to the conclusion that they "must have been known in some way to the first readers of this text."

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 12:09 pm

Simon Peter.

Mark 1.16 seems to presume that readers will already know who Simon is. Unlike most characters in the gospel, Simon is given no introduction by nickname, patronymic, or any of the usual manners; and his brother, Andrew, is identified by his relationship to Simon ...
I just don’t see the necessity for readers to have foreknowledge about Simon, Andrew, James and John at that point. Mark just introduced them as much as he saw necessary at this point in the story. The Semitic forms of Simon, James and John were very common names in the Jewish homelands of the times --- especially James and John. One couldn’t swing a dead cat around by the tail in a crowd without hitting a James or John or two (no offense to cats --- I like cats). With these somewhat vague introductions, I think Mark is setting the stage for his later reveal for those in the know.

But the Greek name Andrew (Ἀνδρέας) is intriguing. One couldn’t possibly find a more generic name for a man. ***

In 3:16-17, Mark reveals the more complete name as Simon Peter, in association again with James and John. Paulinist insiders would readily see Mark’s clever word play with Cephas/Peter, and clearly recognize ‘Jim and John and a guy named Rock’ --- Paul’s 3 Pillars.

And interestingly, Paul's grecized Cephas (Κηφᾶς) was among the rarest as a Semitic name of the time, with only one possible example extant pre-dating Paul. In a papyrus in Aramaic explicitly dated to 416 BCE and documenting the sale of a slave, a witness signed as “qb br kp”, sometimes translated as ‘Aqab son of Kepha’ (A nickname for the father? Jacob son of Rocky?). 1/

And along with that, there are no clear extant examples of Peter (Πέτρος) used as a personal name before the Christian-era, with πέτρος previously just a noun for a stone or piece of rock. 1/

One might presume that Peter (Πέτρος) as a personal name originated with the author of GMark, and that the name Peter was a later substitution in some MSS for some occurrences of Cephas in the letter Galatians by confused or over-zealous scribes.

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 12:09 pm

The betrayal by Judas.

In the list of disciples, long before Judas has betrayed his Lord, Mark already mentions that betrayal:

Mark 3.16-19: 16 And He appointed the twelve; and to Simon he gave the name Peter, 17 and James, the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James (to them He gave the name Boanerges, which means, "sons of thunder"); 18 and Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot; 19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Him.

... it is as if Mark expects his readers to already know the story of the betrayal by Judas, and he is merely pointing out that this is that Judas.
As for the mention of the betrayal by Judas seemingly out-of-the-blue well before the actual occurrence --- what a great teaser. I suspect many readers or listeners would pay extra attention listening and waiting, or reading-on, to find out how, when, and why Judas betrayed Jesus.

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 12:09 pm

The second Mary.

Mark 15.40 seems to presume that readers will know how to sort out the names of the women: Μαρία ἡ Μαγδαληνὴ καὶ Μαρία ἡ Ἰακώβου τοῦ μικροῦ καὶ Ἰωσῆτος μήτηρ καὶ Σαλώμη. The issue is that second Mary. The Greek wording is capable of being understood in six different ways, including three in which two separate women are in view:
  • Mary (the wife) of James the Less and the mother of Joses.
  • Mary (the daughter) of James the Less and the mother of Joses.
  • Mary the mother of James the Less and of Joses.
  • (A) Mary (the wife) of James the Less and (B) the mother of Joses.
  • (A) Mary (the daughter) of James the Less and (B) the mother of Joses.
  • (A) Mary the mother of James the Less and (B) the mother of Joses.
How is the reader supposed to know which option is correct unless s/he already has some knowledge of these women? (This point comes from Theissen.)
With the Marys --- not entirely unlike the several other characters sharing names --- I suspect Mark is playing with the reader here with purposely constructed confusion. The ‘Who’s-on-First-Mary-Go-Round’ has likely intrigued readers over the centuries and down to this day --- prompting many to pour over the text trying to resolve the questions. And in the process, discovering and learning more about Mark’s intended lessons. What more could such a writer strive for?

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 12:09 pm

To summarize, I think that the author of the gospel of Mark was writing for readers who already knew at least certain parts of the story ...

This analysis says nothing about whether what Mark's first readers knew came from historical facts, from legendary tales, or from previous gospel texts. Any or all of those options are left wide open ...
And certainly there is another option --- none of those.

I think Mark worked hard to present his lessons in an way that would appeal to the masses. And through it all shines the Pauline and Isaian framework of the spiritual son of God coming in the likeness of flesh to teach about faith and the weakness of flesh, and then dying on a stake for the benefit of the many --- and offering the hope of resurrection from the dead.

And I think Mark thoroughly enjoyed writing his tale --- with a sly grin on his face.


robert j



*** A side question that may or may not have relevance here --- is there evidence of Andrew (Ἀνδρέας) as a personal name prior to GMark? A cursory internet search provided no help, and I don’t know what might be found in the several volumes of the Lexicon of Greek Personal Names, or elsewhere.

1/ Fitzmyer S.J., Joseph A., "Aramaic Kepha' and Peter's Name in the New Testament", pp. 121-132, In: Text and Interpretation --- Studies in the New Testament Presented to Matthew Black, edited by Ernest Best and R. McL. Wilson, Cambridge University Press, 1979.

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Re: Presumptions of reader knowledge in Mark.

Post by Ben C. Smith » Sat Feb 08, 2020 8:17 pm

robert j wrote:
Sat Feb 08, 2020 12:52 pm
A side question that may or may not have relevance here --- is there evidence of Andrew (Ἀνδρέας) as a personal name prior to GMark? A cursory internet search provided no help, and I don’t know what might be found in the several volumes of the Lexicon of Greek Personal Names, or elsewhere.
Yes, Andrew is well attested as a personal name in Greek texts either predating Mark (such as Polybius and Ptolemy II Philadelphus) or unaffected by Mark (such as Josephus, Athenaeus, and Galen).

Your arguments seem to me to amount to a "just so" account of how each of my examples could possibly be fresh news to Mark's readers, but I am not talking about possibilities; I am talking about probabilities. In other words, at these instances Mark is writing, as demonstrated both in the OP and elsewhere by me on this forum, in the way that authors tend to write when they are presuming reader knowledge. Nothing you wrote deals with these authorial tendencies; rather, it merely suggests, "Well, maybe not." And I would agree with that. Maybe not. But... more than likely.
robert j wrote:
Sat Feb 08, 2020 12:52 pm
I think your arguments and evidence are reasonable, at least they sound reasonable. But I think it’s your expectations that are unreasonable.
I have no expectations going in, whether reasonable or not. The entire method is designed to dispense with prior expectations. Rather, each item is evaluated simply on whether it resembles the kind of writing that authors do when they do not expect prior knowledge of their readers or whether it more closely resembles the kind of writing that authors do when they do expect prior knowledge of their readers. It is entirely possible for most or all of the "hits" to go one way or another, but not both, or it is possible that some "hits" will go one way, and other "hits" the other way. It is this range of possibilities that keeps the method free of expectations. Is it perfect? Of course not, and a couple of "hits" in any given direction could be chalked up to quirk or coincidence. The overall picture is what matters more.
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Re: Presumptions of reader knowledge in Mark.

Post by Jax » Sun Feb 09, 2020 11:32 am

You know... It occurres to me to wonder. Usually it is supposed that "Mark" was writing to groups of Christians, but what if s/he was just writing to one person? A patron perhaps, who was a fellow Christian follower of Paul's letters and had a library that included the LXX, works of Homer, and a newly copied text of Antiquity of the Jews. A copy that this patron had made available to "Mark".

This patron would then be familiar with these texts and could appreciate the references in Mark but would still need to be introduced to story elements created by Mark but not in that persons library.

The patron having enjoyed GMark then has copies made to send to like minded friends and it goes on from there.

When Paul makes the comment that "Christ crucified was publicly portrayed" it seems that the passion portion of GMark may have been a popular play with early Christians in Mark's community, possibly done at special occasions, and Mark with the help of works like Antiquity of the Jews, Homer, and the LXX, filled in a back story for the Jesus character.

Just my 2c.

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Re: Presumptions of reader knowledge in Mark.

Post by Martin Klatt » Mon Feb 17, 2020 11:20 am

Hmm, the case of Pontius Pilatus is very interesting.

In Mark, the first gospel so the original account, there is only talk of a P(e)ilatos. In Matthew he is a P(e)ilatos hegemoon, in Luke he is fully identified as a Pontius P(e)ilatos hegemonizing under Tiberius. There is evolution, but what is the original meaning? In Mark it is even possible there is a title p(e)ilatos used, that has nothing to do with the historical Roman prefect Pontius Pilatus. For what we know and don't of hellinist titles, a p(e)ilatos could be a generic title for a prosecutor or judge in some eastern parts of the empire.
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Re: Presumptions of reader knowledge in Mark.

Post by Giuseppe » Mon Feb 17, 2020 11:38 am

Martin Klatt wrote:
Mon Feb 17, 2020 11:20 am
In Mark it is even possible there is a title p(e)ilatos used, that has nothing to do with the historical Roman prefect Pontius Pilatus. For what we know and don't of hellinist titles, a p(e)ilatos could be a generic title for a prosecutor or judge in some eastern parts of the empire.
thanks for the comment. I read that somewhere Plato talked about three judges in Ades.
Nihil enim in speciem fallacius est quam prava religio. -Liv. xxxix. 16.

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